Monday, October 12, 2009

Towards the Sentient City: The Intersection of Ubicomp and Architecture, and....?

It seems that my recent blog posts have centered around convergence, inter-disciplinary work, and "transdisciplinarity".  Towards the Sentient City is a set of exhibits at the Architectural League of New York is a good example of this concept.

The exhibit started on September 17, 2009, and runs until November 7. This post is a collection of quotes, photos, videos, and links.


Towards the Sentient City:

"Over the past several years, as the Architectural League has become increasingly involved in exploring the proliferation of various types of ambient, mobile, and ubiquitous computer technologies, we have often been asked, what does this have to do with architecture? "

"...We are now on the cusp of a similarly fundamental reconfiguration of physical space, one in which a vast and mostly invisible layer of technology is being embedded into the world around us. Using a wide range of complex technologies and devices — from microprocessors and electronic identification tags to sensors and networked information systems — buildings and cities are being transformed, imbued with the capacity to sense, record, process, transmit, and respond to information and activity taking place within and around them."  -Gregory Wessner, Exhibitions Director,  The Architectural League of New York

Excerpt from the curator's statement:
"Today, as computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets and public spaces of the city, we increasingly find information processing capacity embedded within and distributed throughout the material fabric of everyday urban space. Artifacts and systems we interact with daily collect, store and process information about us, or are activated by our movements and transactions. Ubiquitous computing evangelists herald a coming age of urban infrastructure capable of sensing and responding to the events and activities transpiring around them. Imbued with the capacity to remember, correlate and anticipate, this near-future “sentient” [2] city is envisioned as being capable of reflexively monitoring its environment and our behavior within it, becoming an active agent in the organization of everyday life in urban public space." - Mark Shepard, curator


Too Smart City
Video of the Too Smart City project proposal, via Katherine R.'s "You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet!" blog

Too Smart City from David Jimison on Vimeo.
"Too Smart City is a set of three street furniture pieces that come to life with embedded intelligence and robotic systems. The Smart Bench is a gorgeous two-person seater that recognizes vagrancy and is capable of lifting people up and dumping them off. The Smart Sign displays the latest legal codes on its glossy video monitor, pointing at and addressing people as they walk by. The Smart Trashcan is a sleek metal bin that analyzes what is being discarded. Throw the wrong trash away, and the Smart Trashcan throws it right back at you."

Amphibious Architecture

The Amphibious Architcture project was created by xClinic Environmental Health Clinic at New York University and the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Network of floating tubes at Pier 35 in the East River.
Picture from the Amphiobus Architecture exhibit  webpage
"Two networks of floating interactive tubes, installed at sites in the East River and the Bronx River, house a range of sensors below water and an array of lights above water. The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish, and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish, and their shared environment. An SMS interface allows citizens to text-message the fish, to receive real-time information about the river, and to contribute to a display of collective interest in the environment."    You can text the rivers:  “EastRiver” or “BronxRiver” to 41411

Video from Chris Woebken's Flickr.

Natural Fuse
Electronically-assisted plants that act as energy-producers and circuit-breakers.

According to information on the Natural Fuse website, "Natural Fuse creates a city-wide network of electronically-assisted plants that act both as energy providers and as circuit breakers...Every seemingly helpful device that a human being uses has its own carbon “footprint” which, in excess, can harm other living beings. “Natural fuse” is a micro scale CO2 monitoring & overload protection framework that works locally and globally, harnessing the carbon-sinking capabilities of plants...Natural fuses allow only a limited amount of energy to be expended in the system; that amount is balanced by the amount of CO2 that can be absorbed by the plants that are growing in the system...In the same way that circuit-breakers are useful for preventing excessive current use, so too can the Natural Fuse plants break the CO2 footprint “circuit”."   Related Videos can be found on the Natural Fuse blog.

Trash Track
Electronically talking trash!
Diagram indicating how TrashTrack works. Wireless tags are attached to objects that are then discarded. As the objects move through the waste removal chain, the tag transmits its location to servers at MIT through short message communication. There, the data is processed to drive visualization software so as to represent the trash movements online and also by way of projected images in the exhibition.

"Imagine a future where immense amounts of trash didn’t pile up on the peripheries of our cities: a future where we understand the ‘removal-chain’ as we do the ‘supply-chain’, and where we can use this knowledge to not only build more efficient and sustainable infrastructures but to promote behavioral change. In this future city, the invisible infrastructures of trash removal will become visible and the final journey of our trash will no longer be “out of sight, out of mind”...Elaborated by the SENSEable City Lab and inspired by the NYC Green Initiative, TrashTrack focuses on how pervasive technologies can expose the challenges of waste management and sustainability. Can these same pervasive technologies make 100% recycling a reality?" - TrashTrackMIT's Senseable City Lab

Deployment example.

Trash Tag

inGeo CMA8110 CDMA tracking device by Qualcomm
How the Trash Tracker system works (pdf).

Breakout!   Escape from the office:
"Breakout! is a festival of work in the city, that explores the dynamic possibilities of a single question: what if the entire city was your office? Drawing inspiration from the shared office spaces of the coworking movement, Breakout! creates alternative venues for collaborative work outside of traditional office buildings by injecting lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban public spaces." -The Sentient City
Example of a Breakout! session:
"Using the data gathered at the September 28 "Flash Mob Ethnography" session, the group will collaboratively code and analyze the field notes, sketches, photos and video. The group will employ tools from design research methods to visualize key themes from the data."

What is a Flash Mob Ethnography session?
"Taking a cue from an earlier exploration of Japanese convenience stores, we will be conducting flash-mob style ethnographic research. The session will begin with a short introduction to ethnographic research before heading out into the field. Working in teams of 3, we will explore and document the city using field notes, sketches, photography and video. Finally, we will pool our research together as a group and conduct some collaborative coding though a discussion of key themes. Please bring the following: laptop, digital camera, video camera, sketch book, pens, markers and pencils."

Situated Technologies
I'll post my reflections related to this exhibit if I have the chance to get to NYC to see it!  The closing reception is Saturday, November 7th.

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